Doom VFR Review: Just Enjoy It For What It Is [HTC Vive]

Doom VFR. It doesn’t need much of an introduction, does it? Much like its predecessors in the Doom franchise, Doom VFR just kicks in the wall guns blazing, without any apologies. So it’s no surprise that this latest title from id Software and Bethesda Softworks is seen as one of the biggest virtual reality releases of the year. But enough about all that nonsense. You just want to get down to the nitty gritty and know what the game is like, right?

Well, I had the great pleasure to be the one who got to give the game a go for VR The Gamers. So sure, with much excitement – and a little trepidation – I entered the hellish universe of Doom for the first time in VR. However, the journey itself turned into a little bit of hell on its own. Now, this might be due to the hype created around the game, the fact that it’s one of the few AAA VR titles out there, or just the pure nostalgia of being able to play Doom again almost as if for the first time. Unfortunately though, Doom VFR just falls a little short of being amazing. It predominantly fails in getting those small tweaks – the ones that developers within the VR industry have fine tuned over the past year – implemented just right.

The Devil’s In The Details

Let’s start with the basics, shall we? In the graphics department, I was expecting Doom VFR to shine – and not just with reflections off of pools of blood. However, the game seems to be using dynamic resolution, which lowers the resolution every time your framerates drop below a certain amount. This leads to things looking a bit blurry at certain times. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not bad. The overall design and layout of the game was as superb as the predecessor it got its assets from. But what good does that do when everything looks blurry as hell?

Sometimes when taking a closer look at something, it seemed to come more into focus at least. Though, I have to concede that after tweaking the settings a bit (lowering the anti-aliasing seemed to help) and downloading the game drivers that Nvidia released for Doom VFR, the graphics quality really did improve.

Then, if one can forgive the (arguably small) visual let-down, we get to the gameplay. If there’s one thing that Doom is and does, it’s firepower. And lots of it. In this area at least, Doom VFR does what it does best and provides the heart-stopping action that we all crave. Add the immersion that VR brings and pair that with the amazing soundtrack of last year’s Doom, as well as its crazy demons, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for adrenaline. Which had the likeable effect that the hairs on my arms stood rod-straight from entering the first fight, right up until the game’s end.

To be honest, the ‘battles’ felt a little awkward and halting during the first mission. But once I got used to the flow of things, as well as the movement system, the gameplay started picking up nicely to the point where I felt like I was blazing more heat than the biggest demon in hell on his best day.

Hellish Controls

Unfortunately, though, I’m going to have to point out the flaws here as well. Firstly, though the fights still have that fast-paced feel with satisfying kills – especially the “glory kill” move called a telefrag – the game falls flat on the minor details. For one, there is no left-hand option. So boo-hoo to any left-handed people who were planning on enjoying the game too. Besides that, the game does something which no other Doom game has done before – give your character a personality and let him voice his thought out loud. Which I loved because this is VR and we’re expecting a bit more in terms of interaction with the story and environment. Small things like not truly being on the ground (a calibration tool to check the player’s height would have fixed this) just instantly breaks immersion.

Sadly, the developers also decided to implement a point and click system for interacting with anything in the game. Meaning that whenever you want to pick anything up (and I’m not talking about ammo or health) then you have to get close to it, wait for a green laser to appear from your ‘index finger’, and press the trigger. This is so immersion breaking that I couldn’t believe the developers thought this would be better than actually interacting with the environment. Besides that, there are the ammo and health packs lying around that you simply ‘run’ through to pick up, as well as auto-reloading, which didn’t bother me since that’s how Doom has always done it and it fits the fast-paced action.

Dashing From The Frying Pan Into The Fire

So Doom VFR makes use of two locomotion options which I could use interchangeably as often as I wanted. These are teleportation and ‘dash’ movement. Obviously, smooth locomotion would have been a nice thing to have, but unlike PSVR users, I guess we’ll just have to make do with what we got. Luckily, the teleportation and dash movements work really well together and can still simulate that hyped-up action that we all crave when entering a Doom game. The controls, however, are a bit clunky.

For instance, the dash movement works in the direction that you’re looking at. Which can become really confusing during a frantic battle in close quarters. Perhaps it’s due to me having become used to movement being tied to the direction the controller is pointed in, but this mechanic just didn’t work for me. The teleportation, on the other hand, did allow for some epic moments at least, as it comes with a small time-slowing mechanic that can be upgraded as well. It also allows for the only ‘glory kill’ move in the game, which involves pumping demons full of lead to an inch of their life and then teleporting straight into them, causing them to burst open like a watermelon being dropped from a 3 story building. It was satisfying, though not as much as Doom 2016’s sweet melee kills.

Go Back To Hell, And The Drawing Board

In the end, Doom VFR serves its purpose – it delivers amazing action in a fast-paced and entertaining way. Sure, there are a lot of things that could be improved upon in terms of gameplay, controls and various small tweaks but we have to keep in mind that this is still the first VR game from id Software in a relatively new gaming environment. Developers are still learning what works for VR and what would work even better. They will certainly learn from this experience too. So if you’re a huge Doom fan then don’t let the small things get under your skin so much, just enjoy the experience for what it is.

Gameplay: 7
Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Concept: 8
Controls: 7

The Goods

  • Entertaining, fast-paced gameplay
  • Satisfying telefrag kills
  • Superb visual detail
  • Great flow of action with breaks in between

The Bads

  • Poor optimization in certain gameplay mechanics
  • Controls need some work
  • No smooth locomotion
  • Short
  • Superficial weapon/skill upgrade options

Average Score: 7.8

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